It wasn't me....
Q: When is a verified person not a verified person?
A: When they are a verified Air BnB host
This has been one of the toughest and most surreal weeks of my business career. It has made me question for the first time whether I am cut out for this business, and if any of my competitors are reading this, whether to sell up and find a job (Answer not yet)
It all started so innocently. On Monday evening a client emailed asking why the tenant had fitted a key safe to the front of his Grade 2 listed building, do you think it could be for an Air BnB listing? I said I’d check it out. I visited the property and sure enough there was a key safe attached to the wall of said listed building.
I returned to the office opened the Air BnB website typed the postcode into search and lo and behold up popped a property in the road which our client had a property. I clicked on the listing and the initial photo was a generic one of the street so no smoking gun, but a look at the internal photos told a different story. The Air BnB host had used my photos to advertise the property. Not only was the tenant breaching their agreement, but they were also doing it whilst contravening my copyright.
I looked at the listing again, and there was a picture of the “verified host” but there was an issue. The verified host had the same Christian name as our tenant, but the photo was of a different person. How do I know? The verified host and our tenant are of very different ethnicities.
I decided to sleep on this. On Tuesday I rang the tenant. I explained that it looked like their property was being used for Serviced Accommodation and if it was them doing this they must stop immediately as it was a breach of their tenancy agreement.
“How dare you accuse me without evidence” they yelled down the phone.
I pointed out that the photos not only were similar but in two cases my marketing photos had been used.
“No, they haven’t. You’re making this up” was their reply and she put the phone down.
I contacted Air BnB. I explained the situation and followed it up with an email enclosing a copy of the tenancy agreement.
I got the following reply:
Airbnb is an online platform and does not own, operate, manage, or control accommodations.
Regrettably, we are unable to verify legal ownership documentation including but not limited to mortgages, deed of trusts, grant/warranty/quit claim deeds, leases/rental agreements, By-laws, etc
So, there you have it. Air BnB will list a property if the host says they can. They won’t make any checks they will trust the “verified” host. But in this case the picture of the verified host is not the same as the tenant. What, was going on?
Getting nowhere I booked a 2 night stay in the property. Paid £292 and waited for my confirmation. I didn’t have to wait long. Congratulations on booking your stay at ***** You can access the property from 3pm. We hope you have a lovely stay. ANOTHER SMOKING GUN. Photos and a booking banged to rights. I emailed the tenant and explained I had booked a room sending a screen shot of the booking along with my photos which I believe most people would accept as proof that the property was being used as an Air BnB.
I received the following in reply:
You've not provided any evidence that can aid me to investigate further within my circle, you have claimed to have booked ******, but based on the evidence you shared, it is unclear what apartment your information is relating to. I am also well aware that there are about 5 apartments in this building, therefore, it is unclear what you are inferring. What I do know, however, is I am home now and will be at home tomorrow.
You are making allegations while pronouncing judgment in the same sentence, and threatening action without establishing any facts. One thing I cannot stand is bullies, I detest bullies.
At the same time, I contacted Air BnB explained that I had booked a stay at the property I managed on behalf of the owners. Now they took it semi seriously, Felipe emailed me and said:
We encourage you to discuss this matter directly with the particular individual, and we hope you can reach an amicable resolution.
At the same time the “verified host” contacted me via Air BnB with the following message
Hi Peter, my account is being blocked and so I cannot host you at the moment until I know more. Sorry about that.
Air BnB then contacted me telling me that I would get a refund of my booking and with a list of other properties available in Bristol that I might like to book instead. Ignoring the reason why I had booked in the first place.
I decided that I should give our tenant the benefit of the doubt. I wrote to her explaining that there was no doubt that our property had been used as an Air BnB but that she might have been a victim of fraud, and if so she should go to the police and that we would assist her in any way we could.
I received another reply late on Wednesday after I had gone to bed where she continued to vent that she or anyone connected to her had advertised the property and it definitely wasn’t her property anyway. She then informed me that said she had no electricity and:
In the meantime, if I do not see the electrician by 10 am tomorrow morning, I will find an emergency electrician to get the issue resolved and recover my expenses from you whether voluntarily or through the courts.
I took this seriously and on Thursday I visited the property. I rang the Entryphone 3 times - No answer
I went to the flat. I knocked on the door three times – No Answer
I let myself in calling out in case the tenant was asleep there was no reply. Sure, enough no electricity. I went to the fuse box. Someone had turned off the electricity at the mains. No fuses were tripped. I turned the electricity on. Checked all the lights and the fridge. Made a quick video showing that everything was working and sent it to the tenant. Whilst not expecting a thank you I did not expect the following response
This is a violation and in breach of the agreement.
I was a little shocked and explained that she had invited us by insisting the issue was sorted by 10.00 and in any case if we consider it an emergency we reserve the right of entry, and that no electricity was considered an emergency. And then it got weird………
I received an email starting with the following sentence:
What kind of disgusting act was that? Who goes to a woman's private space and starts recording her underwear?
It went on quoting GDPR, right to privacy and that I had harassed her quoting several cases which on further investigation appear to have no relevance (Although this is now in the hands of my solicitor who will confirm this) The email ends with the following:
I will pursue everything that is due to me and expect you to reframe from violating my rights. As I will take the necessary actions to protect myself as I feel very unsafe now.
In the meantime, Air BnB emailed me informing me that the listing was suspended. I replied, not unreasonably asking whether all future bookings had been cancelled as well Felipe (remember him) replied:
For authentication and privacy reasons, we can't give information or discuss issues related to reservations that are not registered in your account.
So, there you have it.
- We have a tenant who is advertising a property on Air BnB which they have no right to do,
- Is verified but not to the extent that the verification photos are of the same person
- We have a tenant who despite being caught banged to rights is denying any wrongdoing like a two year old caught with her hands in the cookie jar
- Who seems to think that by fixing her electricity I have violated her rights and deliberately videoed her underwear
So my friends, what would you do……. Please let me know